UNDERSTANDING WHY BEES SWARM

04/27/2015

A large bee swarm has just landed in a tree in your backyard. The kids are playing on the swing set within a few yards of the bees, but haven’t noticed them yet. Why has this swarm chosen this tree, in your yard, and what can you do to avoid a severe bee attack on your children?

First, be calm. It really does matter, not so much to the bees, but you do not want to startle the kids. More importantly, you do not want to stir their curiosity about the large swarm of bees in the tree. Simply call them into the house for lemonade, or use some other “bait” to get them to come inside. That is the safest way to defuse the situation and the best chance that nobody will be stung. The bees are not paying attention to the kids, but are completely focused on the queen bee, who is in the center of the swarm. As long as the kids do not notice the bees and start disturbing them, the bees will stay where they are and leave peacefully, usually within an hour or so.

A swarm of bees in the yard

Stinging pests are not welcome in the yard, especially not a swarm containing thousands of bees. What is going on? Are they lost? Are they sick? Well, they are not sick and they are not lost. These bees have “absconded” from their nest, a common bee behavior that occurs whenever honey bees outgrow their hive or feel an ongoing threat to their home. They have simply left the old hive at the direction of their queen, and are looking for a place to build a new home. They have landed in your tree to rest while scout bees continue looking for the perfect place.

The threat of a bee sting, or thousands of them

Honey bees are docile and even though they are a stinging pest, they do not sting unless provoked. Bees only sting to protect themselves or their nest, and without a nest, they have one less thing to worry about. If you have ever been stung by a bee, you were perceived as a threat, either to the nest and honey, or to the bee itself. There is neither honey, nor any developing bees in a swarm that has absconded, so the only thing for them to protect is the queen. She is in the middle of the swarm cluster, and all of the worker bees try to stay as close to her as possible. Would the bees react should a rock or a basketball suddenly strike the bee swarm? Yes, they would respond quickly, but if left alone they are not concerned about anything outside of their world.

Determined to protect the queen

The queen bee is essential to the hive. Without her, the other bees will have no leader. Queen bees are also necessary to mating and growing a hive. While worker bees have some ways to produce a new queen, if they are not successful at doing so, the entire colony of bees could die.

The role of bee scouts

If you see a few bees flying in and out of the swarm, they are probably scout bees. The job of a scout bee is to find a potential nest, so they are coming and going to report in occasionally as they search for the new home. They are interested in nothing else, only the mission they are on. Otherwise, other bees in the swarm will stay put until the queen decides to move away.

Reasons for bees being on the prowl

Bees do not like to build their nests in populated areas. They learned a long time ago that their honey is a highly desirable commodity to many predators. These predators steal their honey and disrupt, or even destroy their home and precious brood. This could be the reason they are moving in the first place. Something disturbing or disruptive has moved into the area, too close to the hive, and they have chosen to leave rather than fight for the location.

More commonly, the colony has simply gotten too large for the hive and it is time for a bigger home. The old hive probably served them well, but with all the new hive mates coming along, the old homestead has gotten crowded. The time has come to pack up and move to a larger space, so they can spread their furnishings out and continue to build and grow their colony.

Resisting the urge to kill or trap bees

Honey bees are beneficial insects and should not be destroyed unless there is imminent danger to humans. In most cases, if the bees are simply left alone, they will leave on their own accord, usually within a few hours at most. It is also dangerous to risk disturbing a bee swarm by trying to trap them yourself. This could definitely prompt an attack. Attacks by large numbers of bees can be lethal. If the bees have not left after a few hours, consider calling a pest management professional.

Concern about your home as their new living quarters

Bees do occasionally decide to build their nests in homes, but it is the exception, not the rule. There is too much activity around a typical home to provide the peace and quiet they desire.

If you have a bee swarm in your yard, it’s best to just leave it alone. But if the bees have moved into the walls or eaves of your house, you should call Terminix®. A Service Technician will evaluate the situation to determine whether treatment or removal by a beekeeper would be more appropriate. Honey bee treatment is a multistage process that should be handled by professionals. Improper treatment of bees can result in multiple stings and even cause damage to the home from the honey that is left behind.

 

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